Fall in love with Honfleur – the city favored by the impressionists

This summer I visited Honfleur for the second time within the space of two years. Last time, it was me who fell head over heels in love with this charming little city. This time it was my parents’ turn to go “wow” and “aww” while admiring the port, the buildings, the boats, the atmosphere.

I remember that feeling. Being an art lover and all, I probably felt it even stronger than they did.

vieux bassin

“I know I’ve seen this place before”, I thought to myself as my boyfriend and I arrived at the port of Honfleur, two years ago, while road tripping through Normandy.

I was right. I had seen the port before. Through the eyes of Claude Monet and other impressionists. Honfleur is, and always has been, a city favored by artistic souls – and that is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

narrow street

As you stroll along the many narrow cobblestone streets of Honfleur, you’ll notice a great variety of art galleries of different sizes and artisan workshops of different sorts.

And, last but not least, there’s also an artisan chocolaterie in Honfleur. Mmm, chocolate!

chocolate

The beautiful historic houses built around the Vieux Bassin, and the port itself haven’t changed much over the years, but their purpose has. Instead of welcoming commercial ships and fishing boats, the harbor is now mainly filled with sailboats and other leisure boats. The horseshoe-shaped port is without a doubt the busiest part of Honfleur, with its many restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and local boutiques.

girl in honfleur

Honfleur is for lovers, artists and lonesome wanderers

  • Yes, it is the perfect place for a romantic date with your loved one. Enjoy the view of the Vieux Bassin while sipping on high quality wine and satisfying your taste buds with delicious French cuisine (perhaps from the gastronomic restaurant L’Ecailleur) – or do like the locals do; enjoy some fresh mussels in white wine and garlic sauce for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white wine (perhaps at Le Bistro du Port?)
  • And the target of inspiration for artists and photographers, in love with the old French charm, and the works of the famous impressionists!
  • And it’s a great place for solo travelers in need of peace and tranquility. Enjoy the beautiful view, buy something totally unique from one of the many artisan boutiques, visit the fantastic art museum of Eugène Boudin or the whimsical museum of musician and composer Erik Satie.

What are some eatable things you should take home from Honfleur?

Well, like I said before; you really shouldn’t miss out on all that delicious chocolate. You’re on a diet? No, you’re not. Not while in France, honey. Aux Blés d’Or is a chocolaterie worth your time and money (they don’t have a website, but they have a mouthwatering video on YouTube).

choco

Do you like strong alcohol? Then you might wanna visit one of the many wine/liquor stores, souvenir shops or small épiceries offering their finest local specialties. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of Calvados, which is an apple brandy – and a big specialty from the Normandy region. If Calvados is a little too strong for you, try Pommeau instead (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). If you prefer something lighter and more refreshing, try one of the locally produced ciders. French ciders are a lot less strong than the ones from the UK and a lot less sweet than the ones from Scandinavia!

calvados

The Normandy region is also known for using a lot of butter (in baking and in sauces) and cream. Try the Tarte Normande (local apple tarte) served with a little cream on the side. I visited the tea house L’Atelier and tried their version of this tasty tarte. Yum!

tea house

Speaking of dairy products. When in France, you just have to eat cheese. Lots of cheese. The most famous cheese of the region is the internationally known Camembert. Is it the best one? Now that’s a matter of personal taste. Have some Camembert and try the other ones, as well (Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque  and Livarot). Compare, and find your favorite!

What else is there to do in Honfleur?

  • Visit the impressive Sainte Catherine Catholic Church. The church dates back to the 15th century, and is the country’s largest timber-built church with a separate bell tower.
  • Go on a boat trip! Take a guided tour off the shores of Honfleur and discover the Seine Estuary. For more information, click here.
  • Check out the farmer’s markets on Place Sainte Catherine (by the church). The traditional market takes place every Saturday morning, and every Wednesday there’s an eco-market (going green and eating clean is quite a big thing in France). And every first Sunday of the month, there’s a flea market (also on Place Sainte Catherine). Who knows, you might stumble upon some cool artwork or artisan jewelry?

church honfleur

3 things you probably didn’t know about Honfleur

  • Scandinavian Vikings lived there. This was before the Hundred Years War between France and England (where, at some point, Honfleur was taken and occupied by the English).
  • In Early October, there’s the Fête de la crevette (shrimp festival). Join the shrimp peeling competition and compete to win all your peeled shrimps.
  • Honfleur’s own painter Eugène Boudin introduced Claude Monet to his hometown and inspired him to start painting. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the impressionist art history without Monet in it. He’s my favorite painter!

honfleur boats

My personal favorites for food and drinks in Honfleur

  • Bar: The beer bar Le Perroquet Vert, centrally located at the port of Honfleur. With a large selection of beers and cocktails, it’s the perfect spot for a night out (or for apéro before heading to your restaurant of choice). Want a cocktail suggestion? Try the Normand for that Calvados-feeling!
  • Restaurant: The modern gastronomic restaurant La Fleur de Sel was the first restaurant I went to in Honfleur. Not just for any occasion,  but for a romantic date night with my man. Amazing food, lovely staff – and everything looks as great as it tastes. Perfect for a soirée en amoureux.

ferris wheel

restaurant

church

water tower

streets


 

 

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The botanical garden on the Cider Route in Normandy, France

Back in August, my parents traveled all the way from my native Norway to spend a week vacationing with me in France. More precisely in Normandy.

The beautiful region known for its apple cider (and calvados) production, cheese production (some smelly, others not so much)  and the quaint half-timbered houses that are ever so charming and fairy-tale-esque!

Being given a whole lot of responsibility and becoming my parents’ personal ambassador of France (you know, considering I live in the country and all) I went out of my way to make sure we wouldn’t spend a single second of the day being even remotely bored. While doing my Normandy-research, I found plenty of articles about some kind of a Cider Route.

“When in Lower Normandy, you have to check out the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) in Pays d’Auge. It’s a 40 kilometers stretch of idyllic scenery, pretty little villages and home to several producers of the “AOC Pays d’Auge” cider”.

Alrighty, then. Off to the Cider Route, we go!

Was it worth exploring?

You bet your sweet ass, it was.

If you weren’t already in love with the French countryside before, you sure will be after a day or two spent exploring the scenic Cider Route. The rustic charm of the half timbered houses and old fashioned cafes, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped right into a fairy tale. The traditional farmer’s markets and the cider farms, now this is the icing on the cake. It sure completes the ambiance Normande!

But… Yes, there is a but.

As amazing as it all is, at one point you might wanna take a short break from all that cider shopping and village hopping and do something else, I’m certain.

Because things can get kind of repetitive. And you can get kind of broke.

Luckily, on the Cider Route itself, there is indeed another activity you shouldn’t look past.

cambremer

If you’re someone who enjoys photography (nature, macro, floral) , idyllic picnics, beautiful parks and romantic gardens – or you’re a painter/artist searching for inspiration; you’re in for a treat.

Creative souls and nature lovers alike; you are gonna love Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge (the gardens of Pays d’Auge)!

These charming botanical garden is open from May 1st until October 20th, which means you might want to hurry up if you wanna spend a day in this picturesque location before it’s closed for the season.

pays d'auge

Back in August, while exploring the Cider Route with my mother and stepfather, I took them to Jardins du Pays d’Auge – and, just as I expected, they loved every minute of it.

Well, except from maybe the thirty minutes of sudden rain showers. But hey, Mother Nature decided it was time to water the plants – and just happened to water the three of us at the same time!

According to the lady at the ticket counter, we would need about one hour and a half to quickly see everything Jardins du Pays d’Auge had to offer. The different themed gardens, such as the rosary, the devil’s garden (Jardin du Diable), the angel’s garden (Jardin des Anges), and the September garden (Jardins de septembre), were the perfect spots for photo-enthusiasts like myself – and my mother, to take lovely photos (of each other as well as the flowers and plants).

lavender

While strolling through the gardens, at one point you will end up wandering through a maze, which will then lead you to a cute little chapel. With music playing inside of it.

Apparently the gardens are available for wedding ceremonies, so I guess the chapel is used when celebrating the most romantic events of them all. The big day.

Would you set your future wedding to a botanical garden? I sure would (if my significant other was up for it)!

On site, there are some traditional half timbered houses open for guests to explore. These houses are fully equipped with different tools formerly used in production of food, hardware and clothing, back in the good, old days before modern day technology.

As my stepdad is an engineer and naturally curious about how everything is/used to be made, this was without a doubt his favorite part of the visit.

half timbered house

My mother, on the other hand, was ecstatic when we walked past a small stable with two donkeys in it.

Random, I know.

She went photo-crazy and took maybe thirty pictures of the poor animals, all from the exact same angle (as they were busy eating and couldn’t give a rats ass about my mom) and then she acted as stubborn as the donkeys themselves, when my stepdad tried to pull her away from them so that we could move on and continue our visit.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed to bring your own food into the gardens or not, but we did it anyway. Earlier that day, we bought a couple of sandwiches from a nice little bakery in the village of Cambremer (where Jardins du Pays d’Auge is located). We hid the goods in my stepdad’s backpack and saved them for the right occasion; picnic time in beautiful scenery!

If the weather (or the staff) is telling you your picnic ain’t gonna happen, and you happen to be so hungry you’d easily start chewing on flowers and leaves from the trees, fear not. Put the flowers down and wait until you’ve finished the tour around the gardens.

You see, on site – just in front of the entrance to the gardens – there is a lovely crêperie just waiting for your hungry belly to be fed with delicious galettes (savory pancakes) and crêpes (sweet pancakes).

normandy

Well, if you’re visiting the gardens between May and September, that is.

My parents and I, finished our sandwiches, finished the tour, and ended our visit. The rain showers had made the grass wet and slippery, which again had made our shoes wet and muddy. But it didn’t bother me, nor my parents. In fact, my stepdad was thrilled.

“Now, this has been a great day. Beautiful scenery. Tranquility. This beats all the villages that kind of look the same, anyway”.

His words, not mine.

Go to LesJardinsduPaysdAuge.com for more information and updates.

normandy gardens

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